Businesses propose compact sewer plan using 15 percent fee

A coalition of businesses upset with the city¿s commercial compact policy is offering their own proposal.
Posted on April 18, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on April 18, 2013 at 5:00 p.m.

ELKHART — A coalition of businesses upset with the city of Elkhart’s commercial compact policy is offering their own proposal.

The group is seeking a sewer fee policy that is not based on assessed value and a greatly reduced monthly fee.

The group issued a letter to City Council President Ron Troyer.

The proposal marks the third to currently emerge as a wide range of officials seek a solution to the city policy on charging commercial customers outside of the city who need sewer and water service.

The city has sought to shift 75 commercial customers from the traditional sewer service agreement to a compact policy that 63 other companies have been on for years.

In a letter written by Rick Collins, president of Cleer Vision, to Troyer, the group says there is a lack of direct connection between the existing policy that uses property values and to calculate sewer fees.

“In fact, associating the two will have far reaching negative consequences including the devaluation of properties, loss of jobs, stifled expansion in the community, disincentive to build or remodel properties, etc.,” Collins wrote. “A usage-based system is the only solution that makes sense.”

The group also thinks they should pay 15 percent more than what city customers pay.

That’s a far cry from the 300 percent rate paid under the sewer service agreement or the compact fee policy that some businesses say would result in a 500 percent to 1,200 percent hike as they shift to the compact policy.

The group acknowledges it would result in a significant reduction in revenues for the city, but they point out, “our proposal is what is fair and not necessarily “how it’s always been.”

“There should not be an artificial tax levied on the county (customers) to compensate the city for a lack of fiscal planning,” the letter said.

While most council members have not said what they’d like to specifically see in a plan, Troyer, a Democrat, said Thursday, April 18, he’s “leaning” heavily toward something close to what the business coalition suggested.

He said he thinks charging county commercial customers the regular city rate plus a fee based on 25 percent to 30 percent of the city rate is more acceptable.

That type of fee is much more in line with what other cities in Indiana charge customers outside of city limits.

He said he’s also opposed to using assessed value for the formula.

Mayor Dick Moore, who has defended the assessed value formula, declined comment Thursday afternoon, but said he might issue a statement Friday.

Troyer represents a key vote on city council because his support along with Republicans — who have voiced opposition to the current city policy — could provide the fifth and decisive vote needed for approval.

The coalition’s plan is also very similar to one Republican David Henke has informally suggested in recent weeks. Henke has supported the 15 percent figure. He could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon on the coalition’s proposal.

Moore has proposed reducing from 75 percent to 50 percent the amount of assessed property value used to calculate the compact fee. Troyer said council will likely meet at 6 p.m. Monday, April 29, to discuss Moore’s proposal.

The Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce has proposed the city find a method other than using assessed value and suggested the city begin annexing commercial and industrial properties outside of the city. That plan has not been formally proposed to council.

Moore said last week he doesn’t want to consider further changes other than what he has proposed and is opposed to moving away from the assessed value formula.


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